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10. Disguise and Recognition

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In this module, we think about the theme of disguise and recognition in the Odyssey, focusing in particular on: (i) the single moment of disguise and recognition in the Iliad (Patroclus in the armour of Achilles) compared to the numerous disguises and recognitions in the Odyssey; (ii) the importance of recognition to Odysseus’ ‘nostos’; (iii) the four ‘stages’ of a recognition narrative – test, deception, prediction and recognition; (iv) the use of signs (sēmata) as catalysts for recognition – e.g. Odysseus’ scar, his and Penelope’s bed, etc.; (v) the mixture of truth and fiction in Odysseus’ Cretan tales; and (vi) the extent to which Odysseus’ web of lies relates to the art of the fiction/poetry itself.


In this course, Dr Emily Hauser (University of Exeter) provides a comprehensive introduction to Homer. In the first module, we think about the Iliad and Odyssey as ‘oral poems’ and consider this should impact how we read them. The following four modules (2-5) focus in the Iliad, with discussions of: (i) the narrative structure of the poem; (ii) the role of the gods; (iii) the nature of heroism; and (iv) the presentation of war and warfare. The five modules after that (6-10) focus on the Odyssey, with discussions of: (i) the theme of ‘nostos’; (ii) the theme of ‘xenia’; (iii) the nature of heroism; (iv) the role of women; and (v) the related themes of disguise and recognition. Finally, in the eleventh model, we think about the reception of Homer from antiquity to the twenty-first century, and how – if at all – it is possible to escape ‘the shadow of Homer’.

Note: Translations from the Iliad are taken from Martin Hammond (Penguin Classics, 1987) and those from the Odyssey from E. V. Rieu (Penguin Classics, 1946), unless otherwise noted.


Dr Emily Hauser is a Lecturer in the Department of Classics at the University of Exeter. Her research centres on the intersection between gender and poetics in the ancient world, with a particular focus on authorship and gender in antiquity, women in Homeric epic and classical reception in contemporary women's writing. Her recent publications include (as co-editor) Reading Poetry, Writing Genre English Poetry and Literary Criticism in Dialogue with Classical Scholarship. (2018).

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Hauser, E. (2020, September 10). Homer - Disguise and Recognition [Video]. MASSOLIT.

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Hauser, E. "Homer – Disguise and Recognition." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 10 Sep 2020,

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